Venmo is a peer-to-peer mobile app that enables users to easily pay friends and family members also using the app – and now businesses and nonprofits. The app is exceedingly popular with digital natives and younger generations and the savvy nonprofit can now offer it as a way to make giving easy for those individuals. Keep reading to learn more about Venmo, the benefits, how it works and some other fun ways your nonprofit can use Venmo to inspire giving.
What is Venmo?
It’s important to note that Venmo is only available in the United States. Its parent company, Paypal, is used by over 300 million people in over 200 countries. As of the date of this writing, there are no plans to make Venmo international. That said, the peer-to-peer money transfer app is enormously popular in the United States with over 52 million users.
Year over year, the total transaction amount processed on Venmo continues to aggressively climb especially during and post-Covid when the platform saw a boost likely related to people making more cashless payments.
The humble roots of Venmo
Venmo was started by two friends who met in college. After several events where they found the inconvenience of paying each other cash or having to settle up later unbearable, they decided to create a way to pay each other through their mobile phones. Originally, they worked with text messages but quickly decided to move to a mobile application.
The application saw slow adoption at first after its launch in 2009 but in 2012 was acquired by Braintree who was gobbled up by Paypal in 2013. Originally, Venmo could only be used by individuals and transfers to businesses were prohibited. In 2016, Venmo began to slowly roll out Venmo for business. And very recently, it’s now available to nonprofit organizations.
The final acquisition of Venmo by Paypal brought the stability and bank grade security to the platform and you can now integrate Venmo with donation forms via Paypal.
Who’s using Venmo?
Generational adoption of digital wallets
How do your donors like to give? Some of them are so attached to their checkbooks that they can’t move on. On the far opposite of the spectrum are your digital natives who likely have never seen a checkbook and certainly have never talked to a bank teller to make a deposit.
Baby Boomers and Generation X + Venmo
Baby Boomers likely won’t be the majority of donors using digital wallets and giving via mobile apps. There’s a clear adoption curve that begins with Generation X, often called the ‘digital immigrant’ generation. Generation X is called ‘immigrant’ because today’s technology wasn’t something they were born into. Most X’ers remember the introduction of dial-up internet, their first (rather large) mobile phone that they had to push the ‘1’ button three times on to render the character ‘c’ when texting, and well, the emergence of most communications technology we know today.
Some of Generation X will still cling to the checkbooks that they were trained on, they’ve warmed to giving online with credit cards and some have adopted mobile payment. I’m at the tail end of X and while I remember the first ATM installed in my home town, I love technology and trying new things like Venmo.
Adopters of Venmo in this generation will be primarily interested in whether the payment option is easy to use and convenient and will have a strong focus on security.
Generation Y and Z + Venmo
Both Generation Y and Z are considered digital natives having grown up with the internet, computers and smartphones. This group will be your primary target if you’re considering adding Venmo to your payment options. These groups are far more comfortable with digital payments of all kinds rather than cash or check. They’re also far more likely to give via mobile – which is where Venmo comes in.
Adoption of mobile payment applications like Venmo for these generations is focused on social proof, usability and what problem the option solves for them.
To be inclusive of Generation X, Y and Z, when considering adding Venmo as a payment option, you should ensure the experience as easy for them as possible. Venmo solves for this nicely when giving on a mobile device as it pulls from an trusted application they already regularly use.
If you’re interested in a good scientific paper that touches on how generations use this type of technology differently, this one from Springer was very informative. There’s also a wealth of information in this easier to digest PDF.
Why nonprofits should use Venmo
There are many reasons why Venmo works for nonprofits in the United States – several of which have been covered already. With over 52 million users, this option gives your Generation Y and Z donors a trusted way to give that suits their lifestyle. In addition, there are other benefits that make Venmo a good choice.
The security features of Venmo will speak well to Generation X users as it carries the same bank-level safety features as parent company, Paypal. Data is encrypted and bank connections secure. Poor security is often a result of user error such as exposing logins, usernames that expose too much information or lost phones with poor security.
Easily build social capital
Venmo isn’t just a peer-to-peer mobile payment tool, it has a social component. While you can’t social ‘network’ as you can on say Instagram, you build a network of friends and can see who is paying whom. This extends to your brand! If an influencer with a strong network on Venmo donates to your organization, their donation (excluding amount) is visible to their entire audience.
This natural and built in feature of Venmo provides your organization with immediate social proof and extended brand reach. All you have to do is add Venmo and get people using it.
Adding Venmo to your online donation experience
1. Set up Paypal and add it to your gateway options
If you’re already using Paypal, adding Venmo is easy. If you’re not using Paypal, you should probably ask yourself why. The leading mobile wallets in the United States are Venmo and Paypal which can be used internationally as well. You can go here to start setting up your Paypal business account. Once you’ve set up your Paypal account, your next step is to create a Venmo business account.
2. Create a Venmo Business Account
You’ll next want to set up a Venmo Business account, which you can do here. Be sure to create a handle that’s meaningful and will be trusted by your users. Once you’ve created the account, link your bank account and you’re ready to start.
3. Add Venmo to your online donation forms
Depending on your software, you may be able to add Venmo to your payment options on your donation forms. Engaging Networks offers Venmo integration through Paypal One Touch. This integration will vary based on different software tools.
Need help adding Venmo to your Engaging Networks pages? Reach out to our Client Success team for more information.
Interested in learning more about Engaging Networks and how you can raise more money with tools like Venmo? Tell us a little about your organization and we’ll be in touch!
What’s the Venmo user experience on donation forms?
Once you’ve set up your accounts and added the appropriate code to your pages, you should see the Venmo button alongside the Paypal button.
If your donor is on a mobile device, the passoff will be similar to if they paid using Paypal. The app will initiate for the payment to complete and the donor will be sent back to your page for confirmation.
But wait, what if they’re on a desktop?
If your donors arrive at a Venmo enabled page on a desktop the app won’t initiate as its mobile-only. According to this Paypal article on the user experience, you can render your organization’s Venmo QR code on the screen in a lightbox for the user to complete the donation on their mobile device.
Other cool ways nonprofits can use Venmo
Great, you’ve added Venmo as a payment option on your donation forms! What else can you do with it? This harkens back to the boom of text-to-give campaigns. More on that as you read this section.
Venmo QR codes and ideas to use them
With your Venmo account you get a great QR code that sends prospective donors straight to your Venmo page to give.
How are you currently using QR codes? You can use them anywhere! QR codes had a relatively slow adoption rate but now are mainstream and you can easily scan them with your mobile phone’s photo app.
You can use the QR code to send donors to give. Here are some ideas:
- Events and races – At a benefit concert, display the QR code on the screen or on banners with a compelling ask.
- Marketing materials and mailings – If you’re creating a handout, add the QR code with an ask for donors. Test the QR code in a direct mail piece.
- Emergency appeal campaigns – Venmo speaks to donors who want to give quickly. Add it to an emergency appeal with a simple ask and outcome.
- Social media – Rinse and repeat that emergency appeal with the QR code on social media and see how it shakes out.
These are all great ideas to test. If you’re using JUST the QR code though, there are a few things to note in the next section.
Drawbacks of using the Venmo QR code directly
We loved text-to-give campaigns when they came out. You’d be at an event or watching an ad and just pick up your phone to text 20 to the shortcode. With an urgent cause and well-designed campaign money would just pour in. But… the donations were routed through the cellular provider and we never received donor information. The donation was made and the nonprofit couldn’t contact those caring people again. At least not from that text-to-give donation.
Just like in text-to-give campaigns, you don’t collect donor information unless you’re integrating with a donation form. You may see their Venmo handle in Venmo and if you have an active team managing those inbound donations, you can comment on each donation and send them additional information within the app.
Also, there’s a receipting issue. This was also a drawback of early text-to-give campaigns. Those generous donors that texted money didn’t get a tax-deductible receipt. If you’re using the QR code directly, this is the same unless you want to reach out within the app. Although, legally in the United States, you only have to receipt for donations over $250.
The bottom line is, if you’re adamant about receipting and collecting donor data, integrating Venmo with your forms is your best bet. If you use the QR code directly, plan accordingly to reach out and follow up with those donors.
We hope this information is useful as you’re considering adopting new payment methods for your nonprofit. If you’d like to learn more about Venmo and Engaging Networks, share some information and we’ll be in touch!